Belgrade Waterfront project, Serbia

The government ignored citizens' complaints and changed existing legislation to facilitate controversial “Belgrade Waterfront” that would transform Belgrade's neighborhood Savamala into a luxury district.


Description
Savamala is a neighbourhood of Belgrade that stretches along the right bank of river Sava and it is part of the city's historic core. This area includes state-owned land containing a formerly industrial waterfront zone, old railway tracks, small businesses, 101 individual households, and football club established by railway workers. Since 2009, one part of “Savamala” have been transformed by community of young artists and students and now hosts many bars, galleries and cultural centres. “The Belgrade Waterfront” is a project developed between the state-owned company “Beograd na vodi d.o.o” and Eagle Hills - the newly established private property developer from United Arab Emirates. This project plans to transform “Savamala” into an area of offices, luxury flats,  and a shopping mall (the biggest in Eastern Europe - EE) and commercial tower (the tallest in the EE), including displacement of main train and bus stations out of the city centre. The national government declared the project to be of national importance with an explanation that it would revive the collapsed construction industry, create of hundreds of thousands of jobs in construction, commerce and tourism, apart from the share of the profit. In October 2014, the city's architectural, artistic and academic community organised “Ne da(vi)mo Beograd” initiative (the brackets suggest two sentences meaning "We're not giving Belgrade away" and "Do not sink Belgrade") which uses a yellow rubber duck as a symbol of their resistance against a project that they oppose for architectural, urban planning, transportation, economic, ecological, and broader social reasons. The initiative criticises the fact that the project started without public competition and discussions, which prevented citizens and professionals to provide alternatives to the current consumerist vision of the project that include use of public finance for exclusively private benefits. In addition, the project would cause traffic collapse, dramatically alter the visual identity of Belgrade, and promote spatial segregation giving the fact that the luxury flats would be available only to rich people. Moreover, the government adjusted effective laws regarding the spatial organization of the city in order to enable the project. In 2014, “Ne da(vi)mo Beograd”: 1) submitted the list of objections to the project’s draft spatial plan, 2) protested in front of the National Assembly during the session on the laws and regulations adjustments, 3) participated in public session of the spatial plan in Belgrade City Council using inflatable rings and balls to send the message that “’Belgrade Waterfront’ is hollow and we do not want to sink”, and 4) used the banner "Stop the investor urbanism" to disrupt the award ceremony of the 23rd International Salon of Urbanism - organized by the Urban planners association of Belgrade- , given that “The special purpose area spatial plan for regulation of the coastal part of the city of Belgrade” won the first place in four categories. In 2015, the initiative protested in front of the National Assembly against the adoption of lex specialis for “The Belgrade Waterfront”, as well as in front of Geozavod building (headquarters of “Beograd na vodi d.o.o”) against signing the contract between the government and the partner. In addition, the members of the initiative interrupted the project related presentations held by the mayor and the main city planners at various occasions. They also participated in the 51st Critical mass organised to express concerns over the faith of bike lane located on the future “Belgrade Waterfront” promenade, which was eventually closed due to the start of construction works that have resulted in further protests and area blockades. At “Belgrade Boat Carnival”, the initiative’s boat carrying a big yellow duck and a message was excluded from the parade by the police for sending “political messages”. The protest against setting the project’s foundation stone for two residential towers followed. All named peaceful activities were organised in the presence of large number of police that has been forbidding the initiative members the access to the project related event sites and distribution of a printed newsletter, while several journalists have been prevented from filming and interviewing. Despite the resistances, the promenade has undergone a makeover including construction of a controversial project’s “exhibition area”, actually a private restaurant “Savanova”. The construction works on the tower are also ongoing but facing the problems of extremely high groundwater and flood risks. Namely, the construction area coincides with flood defense zone significantly impacted in the big floods in 2014. Most recently, in March 2016, in the light of upcoming parliamentary elections, the initiative reported that a group of people related to the leading political party the Serbian Progressive Party have misused their symbols in order to mislead citizens and prevent substantiated criticism of the project.  On the night of April 24 (election day), around 30 masked men using vehicles without number plates demolished several buildings in the Hercegovačka street (Savamala), while tying up the witnesses and taking away their phones. This event provoked a series of the citizens’ protests against the authorities suspected of being involved in the demolition that gives a way to Belgrade Waterfront project. The protesters are asking for identification and punishment of the perpetrator as well as the resignations of the city and police authorities who did not protect the inhabitant of Hercegovačka. Around 20,000 people participated in the last of three protests organised so far. The initiative has announced it would organize further protests until the demands are fulfilled.
Basic Data
NameBelgrade Waterfront project, Serbia
CountrySerbia
SiteBelgrade, Stari grad, Savamala
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Urban development conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
180 m- height of the tower
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)150
Level of Investment (in USD)4 billion
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population2.5 million
Start Date07/10/2014
Company Names or State Enterprises “Beograd na vodi d.o.o” from Serbia - Investor (32% of share)
Eagle Hills from United Arab Emirates - Investor (68% of share)
Relevant government actorsThe Government of the Republic of Serbia; The City of Belgrade
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) - ERBD loan approved to "Serbian Railways" will be used for displacement of railways and train station from the city center
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters"Ne da(vi)mo Beograd" civil initiative (https://nedavimobeograd.wordpress.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/nedavimobeograd/?fref=ts);

Critical mass Belgrade (https://www.facebook.com/beogradskakriticnamasa/?fref=ts);

International Network for Urban Research and Action (http://www.inura.org/); Serbian Academy of Architecture; international students, architects and other professionals.

Newspapers distribution partners: Knjižara Beopolis, galerija Remont, Nova iskra, društveni centar Oktobar, Centar za kulturnu dekontaminaciju, Magacin u Kraljevića Marka, kulturni centar Grad, REX, Kulturforum, Matrijaršija, Udruženje Učitelj neznalica, Kafe Tezga, Kafe Čilton, Kafe Petak, Kafe Kliše, Kafe Zaokret.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMigration/displacement
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesThe initiative “Ne da(vi)mo Beograd” suggest that “the plan should be cancelled, and a planned organization of the central zone of Belgrade should return to a legal planning procedure, with respect to professional standards of planning and implementation of mechanisms for the protection of public interest”. They ask for more transparency in the entire process, respect of laws, and participation of the whole society, as well as demand resignations of the directors of Republic agency for spatial planning and Urban Development Institute and the mayor of Belgrade. The citizens demand identification and punishment of the perpetrators of demolitions in Hercegovačka street, as well as the resignations of the city and police authorities who have not protected the inhabitants.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.So far the authorities have been completely ignoring all complaints of citizens, and appeals and arguments of experts including architects and lawyers. The project is ongoing.
Sources and Materials
References

Newspaper printed by "Ne da(vi)mo Beograd" number 2
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Analysis of the Belgrade Waterfront contract by "Ne da(vi)mo Beograd"
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Newspaper printed by "Ne da(vi)mo Beograd" number 1
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Alternative Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for Combating Corruption 2013 - 2018 and the Action Plan, CASE STUDY - The project "Belgrade on water" (pg. 2319
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Serbia: 20,000 protesters say 'NO' to controversial Belgrade Waterfront project
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Links

Open letter to the citizens of Belgrade by international scientists and experts in urban development and planning
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Ongoing construction works
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About Savamala
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About the project
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The last Savamala household standing
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Bus station demolition
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Layers against the project
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Facts about the project
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Belgrade waterfront - dark side behind urban renewal (in English)
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Disappearance of railway workers football club
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Civil movement against Belgrade Waterfront (in Italian)
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Private restaurant as the project exhibition area
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Professional opinion abouth the project by a sociologist
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Mayor on the mesaures used by the police
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Ombudsman suggests dismissal of the head of communal police
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Movement against Belgrade Waterfront (in Italian)
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Flats sale
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On the procedure how to buy a flat in Belgrade Waterfront
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Luxury flats interiors
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International opinions
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Declaration by the Serbian Academy of Architecture
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International students on the Belgrade Waterfront (in English)
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Construction site and flood risks
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Belgrade gentrification (in English)
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Chronology of events (in English)
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Republic Agency for Spatial Planning report
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Cyclists' uprising against Belgrade Waterfront
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Evidence from the protest in front of Geozavod building
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"Belgrade Boat Carnival” incident
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Scanned contract
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Resignation of the presidency of the Urban Planners Association of Belgrade
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NE DAVIMO BEOGRAD – OR HOW BELGRADE RESISTS IT’S DROWNING
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Thousands take part in protest over Savamala demolitions
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Serbs Protest Demolitions for UAE-Investment Project
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Serbian Protesters Say Authorities Were Behind Demolitions
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Serbs rally against shady demolitions after masked crew 'tied up witnesses'
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Media Links

Unsuccessful intent by "Insajder" journalist to interview "Beograd na vodi d.o.o" director
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Closer insight in the project development
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On Savanova restaurant/promo stand
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Banner at the 23rd International Salon of Urbanism
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Press conference on misuse of the initiative "Ne da(vi)mo Beograd" identity
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Protest report by the national TV station
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Video from "Belgrade Boat Carnival”
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Ute Lehrer (profesor at the York University) opinion (in English)
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Operation "Slauf" in Belgrade City Council
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Public debate in Center for cultural decontamination
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Other Documents

Protest in front of Geozavod- "Whose city? Our city!"
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Belgrade Boat Carnival The police preventing the initiative’s boat from continuing the parade
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Cyclists' uprising 51st Critical mass at the Belgrade Waterfront promenade
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Protest on June 11 More than 20,000 people in the protest walk
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update20/06/2016
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